Since the advent of microscopy and molecular biology techniques, we have gained a great deal of insight into the remarkable abilities of a cell.
We have learned that certain cell types, such as those of the immune system, have an innate capacity to migrate throughout the body; and others (namely stem cells) are immortal and can differentiate to repopulate entire tissues. There are certain hallmarks that define the lifecourse of a cell: These include the ability to divide, to differentiate, to age and to die.
Many human diseases, such as cancer or neurodegenerative diseases, occur because one or more of these key processes become deregulated.
Cell biologists study these hallmarks, in order to understand how cells function so that errors can be corrected. Members of the Department study basic cellular processes such as stem cell differentiation and aging as well as pathologies such as Alzheimer disease, Huntington disease, prion diseases, stroke, schizophrenia, spinal cord injury and cancer.